Massive protests rocked Kashmir on Monday as students across the valley took to streets in an unprecedented show of solidarity with the students of Pulwama degree college who were wounded in clashes with government forces few days back.
Scores of students were injured during Monday’s clashes as police and paramilitary forces used batons and fired tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse the protesters after demonstrations broke out in Srinagar city before spreading to other parts of the valley.
Talking to Kashmir Post, Medical Superintendent, SMHS hospital, DrNazirChowdary said they received seven injured students. He said three of them were hit by pellets, three by stones and one by teargas shell.
“Two students had been hit by pellets in eyes and one in the shoulder. A female student had also received stone injury in her head and she is under treatment at SMHS hospital,” he added.
The protesting students, mostly from degree colleges across the valley and some universities, boycotted classes. Violent clashes were triggered as police and CRPF men tried to stop the students from taking out protest rallies.
Various student groups had called for protests after more than 50 students of Degree College Pulwama were wounded on Saturday in clashes with government forces. Students in Pulwama alleged that police and paramilitary troops fired pellets and tear gas as they raided the college to try to arrest students involved in protests in the area.
In Srinagar city, students of Sri Pratap (SP) College and SP Higher Secondary School took out a rally on Moulana Azad Road in the vicinity of LalChowk, leading to clashes between the protesting students and government forces.
Police fired dozens of teargas shells and used batons to chase away the protesting students who indulged in stone-pelting and fought pitched battles with them. The clashes created panic in the area, forcing shopkeepers to pull down the shutters of their establishments and disrupting traffic on M A Road.
Soon after, protests broke out in nearby Women’s College and other colleges in the city including Islamia College of Science and Commerce, Amar Singh College, Govt Degree College Bemina, Gandhi Memorial College. Students also took out protests at University of Kashmir, Central University of Kashmir and Islamic University of Science & Technology (IUST) Awantipora.
Protests were also reported from various colleges across the valley including GDC Pulwama, GDC Tral, GDC Bandipora, GDC Baramulla, GDC Kupwara, GDC Handwara, GDC Anantnag and GDC Kulgam.
At least 50 students were injured across the four districts of south Kashmir region as police clamped down on protests against police action at Pulwama Degree College.
Thirty-two students, including 16 girls, were injured in Kulgam as police used force to disperse students.
“We were protesting peacefully and intended to disperse after that but police led by senior officials chased us and entered the college premises. They did not even spare girl students, they too were beaten,” a student told Kashmir Post.
He said that the police used stun grenades and tear smoke shells within the college premises leaving many girl students suffocated and unconscious.
The injured were rushed to district hospital, from where most of them were discharged after treatment.
“We received 32 injured from the college, almost half of them girls. They were discharged after treatment,” R D Kasana, Medical Superintendent of the hospital told Kashmir Post.
In Kulgam an altercation was also reported between lawyers at the local court and policemen, who had barged into the court premises and used chambers of the lawyers to have lunch.
“They misbehaved with us when we objected to their undue presence within the court premises,” a lawyer said on condition of anonymity.
The lawyers were intimidated by the police men and dared to leave the court premises.
“They stood outside the court premises and waited for us. Intervention by the seniors at the court saved us from their wrath,” the lawyers said.
Sources said that later the issue was sorted out in a meeting between the lawyers and senior police officials.
SP Kulgam, Sreedhar Patil, did not receive repeated calls from this reporter.
In neighboring Shopian 20 students received minor injuries as students of the local college and several Higher Secondary schools came out to protest.
The injured had minor injuries and many of them did not require hospitalization.
In Pulwama students of the Degree College came out again and clashed with government forces. There were reports of several students receiving minor injuries.
In Anantnag district students from GDC Anantnag (Boys); GDC Anantnag (Women’s) and GDC Bijbehara held peaceful protests outside their college premises.
Meanwhile, The state government on Monday ordered a fresh shutdown of mobile Internet services in the Kashmir valley as widespread protests led by students gripped the region.
The Internet services provided by all cellular operators in the region were suspended in the afternoon as the state government grappled with a wave of protests across most colleges in the Kashmir valley. The government also ordered blocking of social media sites and mobile phone messenger application to prevent circulation of videos and live broadcasts.
An official of a telecom company said the police ordered them to “immediately shut down” all mobile Internet services.
Another landline Internet service provider — which has been exempted from the shutdown — said the police ordered them to block the social media sites and mobile phone messenger applications. “We received a call from the police and were directed to block Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Whatsapp,” the service provider said.
The shutdown has been ordered as college students across the Kashmir valley led large-scale protests. The protests — held in at least 13 colleges and two universities – were in response to Saturday’s clashes between students and police at a college in Pulwama district in which nearly 50 students were injured.
The protests began almost simultaneously on Monday morning and continued throughout the day in almost all colleges of the Kashmir valley, including those in the city here.
The pictures and videos of protests had gone viral on social media sites, stoking further anger in the volatile region.
The latest shutdown of Internet services is the second this month. Earlier the state government had ordered shutdown of the Internet during the Srinagar parliamentary bypoll, which was marred by violence and death of eight civilians.
Within days of the restoration of Internet services after the Srinagar bypoll, a series of videos – which showed protesters heckling paramilitary men, killing of protesters and security forces personnel beating up civilians and using a man as a ‘human shield’ — had emerged on social media sites and caused a wave of anger.
The state government has been prompt in shutting down mobile Internet services during the past two years. The mobile Internet services had remained suspended for almost four months last year when unprecedented protests had erupted in the region.
Police issued a statement on the protests in the evening.
“While at most of the places the students protested inside their college premises, at few places in Srinagar, Pulwama, Shopian and Kulgam the students assembled on the roads and indulged in stone pelting thus disrupting the movement of general people and traffic on busy roads,” reads the police statement.
“The police at these places exhibited maximum restraint and dispersed the stone pelting mobs of students by using some teargas shells. At some places the college property was also damaged. In the resultant chaos some students received minor injuries and most of them were discharged after first aid. While tackling the stone pelting SHO Kothi bagh and four policemen were injured at MA Road Srinagar. A lady constable had a fracture in her arm,” the statement added.
Sources told Kashmir Post that police and CRPF men entered premises of Boys Degree College Baramulla and fired teargas smoke shells and used lathi charge to disperse the protesters.Six students were also injured in north Kashmir’s Sopore area. However, Block Medical Officer told Kashmir Post that they did not treat any injured students although a journalist was injured while covering the protest.
One student of GDC Baramulla was reportedly injured when students of the college took to roads in solidarity with students of GDC Pulwama.
Chief Education Officer (CEO) Srinagar, Arif Iqbal Malik said many schools, especially Kothi Bagh Higher Secondary School, witnessed huge rush of anxious parents “and we left students one by one with their parents”.